PhD position: below-ground disease suppressiveness (NemEmerge I)

PhD position: below-ground disease suppressiveness (NemEmerge I)

Published Deadline Location
13 Nov 4 Dec Wageningen

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Job description

The Laboratory of Nematology at Wageningen University and Research is looking for a PhD researcher to be a part of an EU HORIZON EUROPE project entitled “An integrated set of novel approaches to counter the emergence and proliferation of invasive and virulent soil-borne nematodes” (acronym: NemEmerge) (start: early 2024). NemEmerge concentrates on two drivers of emerging diseases: global warming (pathogens proliferate in a poleward direction) and genetic selection (due to ample use of a small set host plant resistances).

The project consortium comprises 19 partners from all over Europe that work together in ‘work packages’ that address different aspects of this project. The project allowed us to appoint three PhD’s: each will work on another work package, but together you will be a team of PhDs that contribute to the overall project goals.

Nematodes, also referred to as roundworms, are ubiquitous in soils. A small minority of the plant-parasitic nematodes seriously threatens food and feed production and needs to be controlled. NemEmerge concentrates on the two most impactful plant-pathogenic nematodes, namely root-knot and cyst nematodes. Chemical control of these nematodes is no longer a viable option, and durable alternatives have to be developed. Such solutions are - almost without exception - knowledge-intensive, and as a PhD you will directly contribute to sustainable disease control by addressing urgent scientific questions in a European framework.

Some soils have disease suppressing capabilities. This wanted phenomenon is mostly the result of the combined action of antagonists, bacterial and fungal species that compete with or feed on the pathogen, whereas other biota strengthen the plant innate immune system. As a PhD you will investigate the indigenous capacity of soils to suppress root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.). In cooperation with European partners, samples will be collected along two major sampling swaths from Spain and Turkey to northern Germany. Moreover, you will research how these nematode-suppressing microbiota can be promoted by for instance cover crops or other specific soil management measures.

Your duties and responsibilities include:
  • contribution to the DNA-based mapping of nematode communities throughout two major European sampling swaths;
  • high throughput DNA sequencing-based characterisation of microbial communities in putatively nematode suppressive soils;
  • the use of a bio-informatics workflow to analyse microbial and nematode sequencing data;
  • the development of measures to boost and promote soil microbiota that suppress range expanding root-knot nematodes.

You will work here
The research is embedded within the chair Laboratory of Nematology, and members of the Nematology team, which is led by Prof. Geert Smant You will be co-supervised by dr. Hans Helder and dr. Aska Goverse.


Wageningen University & Research


Your work will revolve around unraveling the complexities of below-ground biotic interactions, where precision and enthusiasm are key to success.
You are:
  • an accurate and enthusiastic PhD candidate intrigued by complex below-ground biotic interactions, particularly molecular nematode-microbe interactions, and their role in disease suppression;
  • responsible for generating and analyzing extensive microbial profiles from samples collected across Europe;
  • equipped with an MSc degree in biology or a related life sciences field, demonstrating a strong inclination for molecular biology and bioinformatics;
  • willing to take on the role of supervising BSc and MSc students during your PhD journey;
  • a collaborative team player with excellent communication skills to interact effectively with European project partners, actively engage in project meetings, and participate in conferences;
  • driven by a preference for intricate data analyses, as well as a genuine passion for interpreting and disseminating research findings.

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770,- ,– per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.
Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the "30% rule", certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.


Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Agriculture
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • P1366433-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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